“Campaign-Finance Reform Can Save the GOP”

Reihan Salam for the Atlantic:

How might we address this bias? Take the “Seattle idea,” which draws heavily on the scholarly work of the liberal legal academics Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres. In 2015, Seattle voters approved a measure that provided all registered voters with a $100 “democracy voucher” they could then use to support local candidates of their choice. Among other things, such a system greatly expands the universe of potential donors, which in turn could influence the agendas and sensibilities of aspiring elected officials. Representative Ro Khanna of California, an iconoclastic Democrat, has proposed a similar system for funding federal campaigns, in which voters would be issued $50 in “democracy dollars.” Under this system, candidates would be more than welcome to raise campaign funds exactly as they do today. But they would have the option to instead enroll in the democracy dollar system, in which case they would be barred from raising hard-money contributions.

Imagine adding a civic-republican twist to Khanna’s proposal: What if voters could only use their democracy dollars to support candidates for whom they could actually vote? That would further encourage candidates to heed their constituents. We would thus have candidates running on two separate tracks: those who would rely solely on their ability to garner contributions from the women and men they are seeking to represent, and another for those confident in their ability to raise campaign funds from wealthy out-of-state donors. There are, to be sure, kinks to be ironed out. Inevitably, unscrupulous grifters will seek to hoover up democracy dollars for their own purposes, which will necessitate strict regulation. And yes, that is less than ideal. But without something like Khanna’s system, Republicans might have no choice other than relying on an endless series of celebrities and provocateurs who, like Trump himself, can attract endless hours of free media attention. That wouldn’t be so wholesome either.

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